Spinal Tap should have ‘trademarked the colour black’, says bassist Derek Smalls

Just imagine the royalties

Spinal Tap bassist Harry Smalls has spoken about going solo from the spoof metal band and their missed opportunity at collecting royalties from Metallica.

In an interview with Consequence of Sound, Smalls – portrayed by The Simpsons‘ Harry Shearer –responds to a question about getting a cut from the profits of Metallica’s best-selling ‘Black Album’. With tongue-firmly-in-cheek, he replies: “Well, if we owned a trademark on the color black, we sure should. I don’t think we thought of that.

“I don’t think it even occurred to us that (A) anybody else would do it, or (B) you could trademark a color.”


‘Black Album’ has sold more than 100 million records worldwide since its release in 1991.

Shearer portrayed Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls in the classic 1984 rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.  

In character as Smalls, he also revealed that it was his allegiance to Tap that stopped him from joining Metallica, explaining “they wanted a commitment, and I thought I might do it for a bit, like a did with Lambsblood, the Christian rock band. But my heart was with Tap.

“It was always, “If Tap calls, I’m gone.” And they said, “You’re right, you’re gone.”

Smalls has since gone solo and in April released his debut concept album on growing old. The solo album ‘Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)’ features some very high profile collaborations, including members of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Foo Fighters.


Acclaimed musicians David Crosby, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Peter Frampton, former Yes member Rick Wakeman, Dweezil Zappa, Joe Satriana and Steve Vai also appear.

Spinal Tap never let fiction get in the way of the music and played a headline show at London’s Wembley Arena and the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2009.

Spinal Tap star Christopher Guest recalled the experience: “We played the Pyramid Stage in 2009. It was a fantastic show. There were 130,000 people there or something. Since the film 30 years ago we’ve gone on tour, playing Wembley, the Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall… It’s weird but great. The fiction became real.”